Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
The Laborious Journey and Search of John Leland for Englands Antiquities
By John Leland (c. 15061552)
Given of Him as a New Years Gift to King Henry the Eighth (From Preface)
WHEREFORE after that I had perpended the honest and profitable studies of these historiographs, I was totally inflamed with a love to see thoroughly all those parts of this your opulent and ample realm, that I had read of in the aforesaid writers: in so much that all my other occupations intermitted, I have so travelled in your dominions both by the sea coasts and the middle parts, sparing neither labour nor costs, by the space of these six years past, that there is almost neither cape, nor bay, haven, creek or pier, river or confluence of rivers, breaches, washes, lakes, meres, fenny waters, mountains, valleys, moors, heaths, forests, chases, woods, cities, burghs, castles, principal manor places, monasteries, and colleges, but I have seen them; and noted in so doing a whole world of things very memorable.
Thus instructed I trust shortly to see the time that like as Carolus Magnus1 had among his treasures three large and notable tables of silver richly enamelled, one of the site and description of Constantinople, another of the site and figure of the magnificent city of Rome, and the third of the description of the world; so shall your Majesty have this your world and impery of England so set forth in a quadrite table of silver, if God send me life to accomplish my beginnings, that your grace shall have ready knowledge at the first sight of many right delectable, fruitful, and necessary pleasures, by the contemplation thereof as often as occasion shall move you to the sight of it.
And because that it may be more permanent, and farther known than to have it engraved in silver or brass, I intend (by the leave of God) within the space of twelve months following such a description to make of your realm in writing, that it shall be no mastery after for the graver or painter to make a like by a perfect example.
Yea and to wade farther in this matter, whereas now almost no man can well guess at the shadow of the ancient names of havens, rivers, promontories, hills, woods, cities, towns, castles, and variety of kinds of people, that Cæsar, Livy, Strabo, Diodorus, Fabius Pictor, Pomponius Mela, Plinius, Cornelius Tacitus, Ptolemæus, Sextus Rufus, Ammianus Marcellinus, Solinus, Antoninus, and divers other make mention of, I trust so to open this window that the light shall be seen, so long, that is to say by the space of a whole thousand years stopped up, and the old glory of your renowned Britain to reflourish thorough the world.
This done I have matter at plenty already prepared to this purpose, that is to say, to write an history, to the which I intend to ascribe this title, De Antiquitate Britannicâ, or else Civilis Historia. And this work I intend to divide into so many books as there be shires in England, and sheres and great dominions in Wales. So that I esteem that this volume will include a fifty books, whereof each one severally shall contain the beginnings, increases, and memorable acts of the chief towns and castles of the province allotted to it.
Then I intend to distribute into six books such matter as I have already collected concerning the isles adjacent to your noble realm and under your subjection. Whereof three shall be of these isles, Vecta, Mona, and Menavia,2 sometime kingdoms.
And to superadd a work as an ornament and a right comely garland to the enterprises aforesaid, I have selected stuff to be distributed into three books, the which I purpose thus to entitle, De Nobilitate Britannicâ. Whereof the first shall declare the names of kings, queens, with their children, dukes, earls, lords, captains, and rulers in this realm to the coming of the Saxons and their conquest. The second shall be of the Saxons and Danes to the victory of King William the Great. The third from the Normans to the reign of your most noble Grace, descending lineally of the Briton, Saxon, and Norman kings. So that all noble men shall clearly perceive their lineal parentele.